On August 30, 2021, it was announced that a senior capstone engineering team from Elizabethtown College had won the Susquehanna Section Capstone Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in the first competition held earlier this summer. The competition recognizes outstanding technical capping stone projects at universities in the Susquehanna area.
The team consisted of five engineering students who graduated last spring: Alejandro Chicas ’21, Donato Grimaldi ’21, Andrew Fisher ’21, Alexander Koontz ’21 and Clark Williamson ’21. They hit several teams from undergraduate engineering courses from York College, Penn State Harrisburg, and Shippensburg University, among others.
The project is entitled “Automated Hydroponics System” and was designed and implemented in the basement of the Baugher Student Center (BSC) to support Dining Services in growing vegetables. Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants in a mineral-rich growing medium instead of soil. The pH value and the nutrient mix of the nutrient medium can be regulated in order to supply the plants with the exact amount of food. Plants grown with hydroponics do not require fertilizers, pesticides and take up less space. Hydroponics also save water, minimize the loss of nutrients, and control plant growth. However, implementing a hydroponic system requires a lot of time and technical knowledge.
Associate Professor of Engineering and IEEE Member Dr. Tomás Estrada was one of the engineering faculty members who oversaw the keystone team. He is heavily involved in the IEEE Susquehanna section and helped put together the Capstone Award competition for the section. He and his capstone project mentors, associate professors of engineering, Dr. Brenda Read-Daily and Dr. Kurt DeGeode, selected the hydroponics project as the strongest senior capstone project to enter the competition.
All senior capstone teams had to create a poster and make a zoom presentation for Scholarship and Creative Arts Day (SCAD) and submit a written report before the end of the semester. The Capstone team found that the competition was much less stressful than their project.
“We didn’t really have to do anything,” said Grimaldi, a member of the Capstone team, “Dr. Email to Estrada [my team members and me] and asked us to submit something. A week later he announced that he had submitted our poster. Then it turned out that we won! “
The competition was judged by members of the IEEE Susquehanna Section, who are all engineering faculties and / or industry experts in the field, according to Estrada.
“The judges told me that they really noticed the way the Etown team delivered a really multidisciplinary result [project]that seamlessly integrates different strands of technology, such as B. electrics, mechanics [and] Programming, ”said Estrada. “They were impressed by the excellent teamwork and collaboration of the team, especially with the challenges of COVID. They also found it very positive that the project is actually being implemented on campus. “
While this competition was limited to capstone projects in electrical engineering or closely related fields, Estrada mentioned that it might be worth considering other similar competitions in other engineering and other disciplines of the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EMCS) . .
Estrada also spoke about his positive experience with the competition and with everyone involved.
“I am always very impressed with the quality of the work our students do each year, as well as the impressive mentoring performance of my colleagues,” he said. “It was great to see how this work was recognized outside of Etown!”
He also expressed his desire that Etown engineering students continue to compete in similar competitions, especially since he believes Capstone project teams will continue to design, build and implement quality work.